Panthers Playoff Chances: Evaluating Carolina’s Postseason Hopes

Cam Newton

Getty Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton

The Carolina Panthers find themselves in a situation where their backs are against the wall in the NFC playoff picture. Entering a Week 15 matchup with the 11-win New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football, the Panthers (now 6-8) desperately needed a win. To start the night, they sat at No. 9 in the conference, behind three seven-win teams.

Carolina faced what was largely considered as a “must win” for Cam Newton and company on Monday, but came up short. To make matters worse, while there are three teams with seven victories ahead of them in the Wild Card race, the Minnesota Vikings are 7-6-1. The loss to New Orleans didn’t completely seal their fate, but the outlook is now bleak.

We’re going to take a look at the playoff scenarios for the Panthers and how Monday night’s loss to the Saints impacted their postseason chances. Let’s first start off by evaluating the NFC standings.

Who’s Ahead of the Panthers in the NFC?

*Notates division leader

  1. 1. New Orleans Saints (11-2)*
  2. 2. Los Angeles Rams (11-3)*
  3. 3. Chicago Bears (10-4)*
  4. 4. Dallas Cowboys (8-6)*
  5. 5. Seattle Seahawks (8-6)
  6. 6. Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1)
  7. 7. Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)
  8. 8. Washington Redskins (7-7)
  9. 9. Carolina Panthers (6-8)

There’s a major battle for the Wild Card spots in the NFC, and with only two games remaining for each team after Monday, Week 16 will provide much-needed clarity. But for the time being, the Panthers loss to the top-seeded Saints hurt their playoff outlook quite a bit.

Due to the Vikings sitting with a tie on their record, it means the Panthers would need to surpass them to even have a chance at the playoffs. This means Minnesota needs to lose both of their final games and both the Eagles/Redskins would need to fall behind the Panthers as well (assuming Carolina wins out).

Moving forward, the Panthers are at home against the Atlanta Falcons and then head on the road to face this same Saints team in Week 17. Let’s break down the playoff chances for Carolina moving forward.

Panthers’ Playoff Chances

The head-to-head tiebreakers mentioned above are somewhat of a wash, although the Eagles defeating the Rams on Sunday night makes things interesting. It’s a good tiebreaker to have for the Panthers, but if it becomes a situation where multiple teams have the same record, they could be in a tough spot.

Much of this comes down to who exactly finishes with the same record in the Wild Card battle, but if it turns to conference record, Carolina currently sits behind each team. The Panthers are 4-6 in conference play after Monday night while the Redskins and Seahawks have six and seven wins, respectively. The Eagles sit with a 5-6 conference record, so that’s a positive for Ron Rivera’s club.

Carolina needs losses and needs them often for the three teams above them over the final two weeks. Even more than that, they need to figure out how to pull off two straight wins.

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